All through the election season so far, Donald Trump has been a political Houdini. The moments his campaign could have gone off the rails are innumerable, from his characterization of Mexicans as rapists and drug dealers, his willingness to deport eleven million undocumented immigrants, his insulting Senator John McCain as well as each of his rivals, his referring to the size of his penis during a debate and his calling for a ban of all Muslims entering the US, to this week’s convention, where his wife was caught plagiarizing Michelle Obama (of all people), and a collection of juiced up demagogues that included Rudy Giuliani and Chris Christie got the crowd so excited that after four days the only remaining question was if Hillary Clinton should just be locked up or summarily executed. Trump ended the convention with a speech full of doom and gloom that only played to the fears of his audience and didn’t contain any hopeful message other than ‘elect me, and I’ll solve all your problems.’ In spite of the lack of even a hint of a policy detailing how Trump will save the US he rose in the polls to draw even with Hillary.
It is Trump’s teflon quality that makes people like Michael Moore and Gavin Newsom say that Trump will win the general election, partly as an exercise in reverse psychology, but there is one way in which Hillary can win in November, and that is by directly attacking Trump’s main weakness, his personality. As mentioned before in this blog, Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is defined by the Mayo Clinic as ‘a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for admiration and a lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of ultra-confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism.’ Trump combines NPD with megalomania, defined as ‘feelings of personal omnipotence and grandeur,’ and it would be very easy to visualize each of those symptoms with a host of images from Trump’s public appearances. The important thing here is to not just show Trump’s madness, which viewers have become accustomed to during the last twelve months, but also to explicitly identify his demeanor as the product of a mental disorder, and to call it by name.
Hillary Clinton’s campaign could put together a series of commercials in which prominent mental health experts describe the symptoms of NPD and megalomania, and subsequently analyze relevant fragments of Trump’s speeches and interactions with the press. Psychiatrists could be asked to assess the risks of having someone in Trump’s condition in the White House. As a result, Trump would become the source of doom and gloom, the problem instead of the solution.
Trump cannot defend himself against an attack like that and escape its consequences. Someone who tries to prove that he’s not crazy is automatically perceived as crazy, and an aggressive response would only accentuate his fragile self-esteem. He would be in the position of someone who has to answer the question: Is it true that you’re not hitting your wife anymore?
Mental disorders don’t play well in US presidential elections, as the case of the late Thomas Eagleton illustrates. Some people would consider it immoral to attack Trump this way, but the stakes are too high to leave any means unused. This is about the US surviving as a democracy.